Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sarah Palin, Anti-Intellectualism & Statesmanship

Being from the South, I've long struggled with feelings about intellectualism. My viewpoint is considerably more liberal than many of my relatives back home. At times, some have confessed resentment toward the "liberal elite" and coastal inhabitants, for their generalizations of more conservative southerners in "fly by" cities.

The truth is, most of my relatives have more education than I have. I've never harbored any intellectually superior delusions about myself. Furthermore, I'm convinced that our political viewpoints are closer than any of us would openly admit. However, the constant drumming of 24-hour rhetorical soundbites from the media, keep us focused only on our differences.

This frenzy leaves individual citizens, and more importantly politicians, little time for exploring common ground. Political hacks and also-runs are constantly vying for the next big headline by inflaming the electorate. This keeps their careers secure, and their speaking fees high. This destructive partisan climate makes progress grind to a halt. The opposite of partisanship in not bipartisanship, it is statesmanship...a virtue rapidly waning in our country.

Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald, recently wrote an opinion piece titled Dear Sarah: Say it is So, Run for President. The column was picked up by numerous newspapers across the country. The backlash has been considerable, and I would agree that Mr. Pitts does little more than mire in the muck.

Amidst his satirical and sometimes tasteless rants however, Pitts does articulate an important point. That intellectualism is not something we should revile in a candidate; nor is down-home common sense. They are both important attributes, and both deserve their due consideration. This is precisely the message I have been trying to wrap my head around for some time. Following is the excerpt I refer to:

"No, you [Sarah Palin] represent the latest iteration of an anti-intellectualism that periodically rises in the American character. There is, historically and persistently, a belief in us that y'all just can't trust nobody who acts too smart or talks too good -- in other words, somebody whose ``general persona'' indicates they may have once cracked a book or had a thought. Americans tend to believe common sense the exclusive province of humble folks without sheepskins on the wall or big words in their vocabularies.

I don't mock those people. They are my parents, my family elders, members of my childhood church. I honor their native good sense, what mom called ``mother wit.'' But if it is insulting to condescend to them, it is equally insulting to mythologize them.

More to the point, something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like yours under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, intelligence, makes a person one of those ``elites'' -- that's a curse word now -- lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense."

1 comment:

James said...

Excellent work there brother!